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"I think it's wide open. Anyone within four, five, six shots has got a chance," Graeme McDowell said Friday.

Despite two nice rounds, McDowell knows hardest to come

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Two years ago at Hoylake, Graeme McDowell led after the first round of the Open Championship but faded badly. After a 73 Friday at Royal Birkdale, the Northern Irishman hopes that experience pays dividends.

By Melanie Hauser, Correspondent

SOUTHPORT, England -- Graeme McDowell didn't want to repeat the past.

Two years ago, the Northern Irishman led after one round of the Open Championship, but let it slip away in the second round. And the third. And the fourth.

This time, McDowell, who shared the lead with Rocco Mediate after 18 at Birkdale, backed up his opening 69 with a 73. And he's right there -- at the time he finished two shots off the lead with the weekend to go.

"I think I'm in a bit more control of my golf swing than I was a couple years ago," McDowell said. "I know kind of where the bad shots come from. It's tough to keep your rhythm good when the wind is blowing that hard. You're out there trying to really hit everything so low and so hard and control the flight so much.

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"Like I say, inevitably you're going to hit some bad shots and some snatchy ones. That's kind of what I did this morning. But like I say, I managed to
... at least I knew where the shots were coming from so I could kind of self-correct a little bit on the golf course."

McDowell picked up his second European win of the season last week at the Barclays Scottish Open and carried his momentum into this 137th Open Championship. Although he got off to a slow start Friday, he brought it back.

"Certainly not thinking about winning at this stage," McDowell said. "Maybe tomorrow night I might play myself into maybe thinking that way, but I just think this is going to be such a tough weekend. I think it's wide open. Anyone within four, five, six shots has got a chance. But I'm not going to be thinking about winning.

"I've got 36 holes of really, really difficult golf to come, and hopefully I can control the golf ball well enough to give myself a chance. That's all I'm looking for."

Like everyone else, McDowell is in awe of Greg Norman's pair of opening 70s. He said Norman leading after two rounds has everything to do with the 53-year-old's conditioning.

"It's fantastic for the Open," he said. "Obviously without Tiger Woods in the field, I mean, who could write a better script than Greg Norman leading the tournament? It's fantastic, great to see him up there. It would be amazing to see him keep it going for four rounds. He's got as good a chance as anyone, obviously.

"He's obviously controlling the ball well, and it's so difficult out there, it kind of really levels the playing field. I guess a guy with as much experience as him playing major tournaments and playing away from flags, that's kind of what you've got to do out there. So I can certainly see how a guy like that can get around."

And yes, Norman was one of those players McDowell grew up watching. "Obviously one of my heroes, I have to say," McDowell said. "The guy is a legend."

McDowell? He's a 28-year-old up-and-comer battling for a Ryder Cup spot. And, yes, he could have taken a 73 if you'd offered it at the 10th tee.

"If you had asked me that after nine holes, I would have said, 'Yeah, I'll head into the clubhouse and that will do me,'" McDowell said.

This week is a family affair of McDowell. He's got mom, dad, brother and niece here and the houseful is getting mom's home cooking.

"We've been chilling out," he said. "We've got a nice big back garden. We've been hoping to get the barbecue on a few times, but it hasn't quite been happening. Maybe we'll get that on tonight."

And when asked if mom had a specialty? He responded like a well-fed son.

"I mean, it's just everything. She's a star, you know?" he said. "What can I say, everything is good."

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